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Home > 2023 > Diaspora Dynamics: India’s Global Footprint | S N Tripathy

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 43-44 October 21 & 28, 2023

Diaspora Dynamics: India’s Global Footprint | S N Tripathy

Saturday 21 October 2023, by S N Tripathy


The evolving political influence of the Indian diaspora in the global context signifies a remarkable transformation in India’s approach towards its overseas citizens. Traditionally, India maintained a non-interference policy in other countries’ internal affairs, treating its diaspora as citizens of their host nations. However, this perspective has undergone a significant shift, with the diaspora now recognized as a strategic asset for India’s economic and diplomatic interests. This transformation can be traced to crucial factors, including the post-Cold War era and Information Technology’s (IT) rise (Van Der Veer, 2008). India began to realize the immense potential within its diaspora as Indian IT professionals played a pivotal role in the global tech industry. India’s stance evolved as the diaspora grew and attained higher social and economic status worldwide.

The political recognition of the diaspora’s significance gained momentum during the tenure of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), particularly under the Vajpayee government. This government established a dedicated Ministry for Overseas Indians and introduced the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, or Overseas Indians Day, to celebrate and strengthen India’s connections with its global diaspora (Government of India, 2022). Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, diaspora engagement has reached unprecedented levels. Modi’s approach involves high-level, direct, and personalized attention, featuring large public gatherings in every country he visits. Since coming to power in 2014, he has undertaken over 106 foreign trips, visiting more than 62 countries. During these visits, he has organized grand rallies and events that have drawn crowds of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) in various global cities (Patel, 2018). The orchestration of diaspora engagement events is a meticulous and multifaceted endeavor, meticulously planned and executed precisely. These gatherings are not haphazard affairs; they are carefully choreographed spectacles that serve a dual purpose: to project India’s burgeoning global significance and rally support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.

At the heart of these meticulously orchestrated events lies a complex web of organizations working together to ensure their success. Key players in this orchestration include Indian embassies and consulates worldwide. These diplomatic outposts serve as vital hubs for organizing and coordinating these events (Patel, 2018). Their role is pivotal, as they act as the bridge between the Indian government and the vast Indian diaspora scattered across the globe.

In addition to the diplomatic machinery, the overseas branches of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) play a pivotal role in this orchestrated engagement. Often headed by committed party members and supporters, these branches work tirelessly to mobilize the Indian diaspora. They serve as the political arm of this engagement strategy, actively propagating the party’s ideology and Modi’s leadership.

Moreover, affiliated organizations like the Sangh Parivar, a collective of Hindu nationalist groups, support these endeavors. They contribute to the mobilization efforts, bringing together like-minded individuals and groups within the diaspora to promote a shared vision of India’s global ascendancy. The synergy between these organizations is a critical element in the success of these meticulously planned events.

A defining characteristic of these engagement events is their global reach. They are not confined to a single locale or a select audience. Instead, they are strategically designed to transcend geographical boundaries. Live telecasts are a common feature, ensuring the proceedings are accessible to Indian audiences back home and the vast Indian diaspora worldwide. This broadcast strategy serves a dual purpose. It allows India to showcase its growing stature and influence on the global stage to a worldwide audience while galvanizing the diaspora.

Beyond their diplomatic and political objectives, these events symbolize India’s emergence as a global power under the leadership of Narendra Modi. They are tangible proof of India’s increasing influence on the world stage, drawing attention to its economic prowess, technological advancements, and diplomatic endeavors. They are a glorious display of India’s newfound status as a rising global force. Furthermore, these gatherings are remarkably effective in mobilizing Indian public opinion, both at home and abroad, in support of Prime Minister Modi. They paint a compelling image of Modi as a strong and visionary leader steering India towards greatness. The carefully curated speeches, presentations, and cultural performances create a powerful narrative that resonates with the Indian diaspora.

The Indian diaspora, scattered across the globe, plays a vital role in shaping the discourse surrounding political and social developments in India. However, it is crucial to recognize that this diaspora is not a monolithic entity but a mosaic of diverse opinions and allegiances. This diversity became especially evident during the farmers’ movement against the three farmer’s Bills in India.

One striking manifestation of this diversity was the response of the Sikh diaspora. They organized protest marches in several countries to express solidarity with the farmers, as they felt a deep connection to the issue due to its profound impact on the farming community, particularly in Punjab. Their actions underscored their concerns’ transnational nature and desire to influence change in India.

Conversely, some segments of the diaspora aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its sister organizations staunchly supported the Bills. They viewed these reforms as crucial to modernizing India’s agricultural sector. This divergence of opinions within the diaspora mirrors the broader political and ideological divisions present both in India and among the Indian diaspora worldwide.

Recently, the Indian National Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, has also begun to engage with the Indian diaspora in different countries actively. Successful meetings with Indian community members in London and the United States indicate the party’s intention to tap into the diaspora’s influence. This move suggests that the Congress party is entering a political arena where Prime Minister Modi and the BJP have already made significant strides (Patel, 2018).
Whether Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party can generate similar levels of support and enthusiasm as their political counterparts within the diaspora remains uncertain. Nevertheless, diaspora engagement has evolved into a fiercely contested political battleground as India’s foremost national political parties vie for influence and support among the global Indian community.

This dynamic illustrates the diaspora’s growing role as a bridge between India and the world, amplifying its voice and influence on India’s political and social landscape and its adopted countries. It emphasizes the complexity of Indian diaspora politics, where multiple perspectives and allegiances converge and interact globally.

The growing political influence of the Indian diaspora in the global context reflects a significant shift in India’s perspective from non-interference to strategic engagement. With a diaspora of over 30 million people worldwide, India recognizes this community’s economic and diplomatic potential. The BJP, under Narendra Modi’s leadership, and the Congress party are actively courting the diaspora’s support, marking a new phase in global Indian politics where overseas citizens play an increasingly pivotal role. This shift emphasizes the evolving dynamics of Indian diplomacy and the diaspora’s integral part in shaping India’s global presence. However, the diverse responses of the Indian diaspora to political and social developments underscore the complexity and depth of this international community, revealing that it cannot be easily homogenized into a single political or ideological bloc.

The role played by Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in strengthening India’s national economy cannot be overstated. Their financial contributions are undeniably substantial, with the remittances they send back home accounting for 25% of India’s foreign exchange reserves. While India isn’t overly reliant on these reserves, this influx of foreign currency into the coffers of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) undeniably serves as a valuable economic buffer, providing stability and support to the nation’s financial system in times of need.

As of 2021-2022, the Indian diaspora encompasses more than 30 million individuals residing in 205 countries, with significant communities in nations including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and various Gulf countries. The economic influence of this diaspora is profound, with India receiving $89,127 million in FY 2021-22, as reported by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, underlining its substantial economic significance. The economic impact of the Indian diaspora is undeniably significant. With over 30 million Indians residing globally, their contributions to India and their host countries are vital in shaping economic landscapes. These funds are not merely financial transactions; they represent a lifeline for countless families back home, providing necessities, education, and healthcare. Moreover, these remittances are a cornerstone of India’s foreign exchange reserves, strengthening the nation’s economic stability and contributing significantly to its balance of payments.

Beyond the financial aspect, the Indian diaspora plays an active and dynamic role in the global workforce. Particularly prominent in sectors such as Information Technology (IT), finance, healthcare, and engineering, Indian professionals, entrepreneurs, and skilled workers abroad are pivotal to their host nations’ economies. Their contributions drive innovation, stimulate economic growth, and fortify industries with their expertise.

Besides, the Indian diaspora acts as a catalyst for strengthening trade and investment relationships between India and their adopted countries. They serve as indispensable connectors for international businesses, facilitating partnerships and collaborations that create new avenues of economic prosperity. The Indian diaspora is a driving force in shaping India’s economic landscape, transcending borders and fostering global economic interdependence. The economic impact of the Indian diaspora is far-reaching, going beyond the remittances they send back home. They actively engage with the global economy, contributing not only financially but also through their active participation in the workforce of various countries. This involvement significantly boosts their host nations’ economic activities and growth trajectories. Concurrently, they play a vital role in creating a network of financial connections that bind India to the rest of the world, fostering a mutually beneficial relationship that enhances economic prosperity.

The Indian diaspora, spread across the globe, represents a diverse and dynamic workforce. They bring their skills, expertise, and labor to various industries and sectors in their adopted countries. This active participation drives economic growth, innovation, and productivity internationally. Whether it’s in technology, healthcare, finance, or entrepreneurship, their collective impact revitalizes the economic landscapes of their host nations, injecting them with dynamism and vitality.

Furthermore, the diaspora’s engagement extends to the financial sector. Many dispersed community members hold critical positions in global financial institutions, corporations, and investment firms. They facilitate the flow of capital, investments, and financial resources between India and the world. This promotes economic integration and fosters greater international cooperation and economic interdependence. India’s growing economy benefits from foreign investments and expertise, contributing to global financial stability and economic resilience. Their entrepreneurial spirit and large and small business ventures are crucial links between India’s vibrant startup ecosystem and international markets and investors. This connection propels India into global innovation while promoting economic diversification and employment generation. Ultimately, it enhances economic resilience and sustainability.

The diaspora’s economic contributions extend well beyond individual achievements. Collectively, they act as catalysts for economic development. They forge financial connections and partnerships that transcend borders, bolstering India’s position in the global economy. Their efforts nurture a sense of economic interdependence, emphasizing shared prosperity and mutual benefit. In a globalized world, the Indian diaspora plays an indispensable role in shaping the financial destiny of their host nations and their country of origin. Their influence spans continents, strengthening economic ties and fostering a more interconnected and prosperous world.


  • Government of India. (2022) Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. Ministry of External Affairs. Available from:
  • Patel, D. (2018) Elite Return migration and Development in India. LSE Blogs. Available from: internationaldevelopment/2018/07/30/elite-return-migration-and-development-in-india/
  • Van Der Veer, P. (2008) Virtual India: Indian IT labour and the nation-state. In: Saith, A., Vijayabaskar, M. & Gayathri, V. (Eds.) ICTs and Indian social change: diffusion, poverty, governance. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications India, pp.369–383.

(Former Professor of Economics, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune, currently at Berhampur, Odisha)

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